Tuesday, November 11, 2014


The Lo-ove Dimension
The Play Fails in the Tesser-act

The must-see movie of the past weekend was Interstellar, Christopher Nolan's new space film with Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and a surprising number of good actors, who pop up almost as a surprise. Welcome ones, at that.

For a year or so, Steven Spielberg was attached to direct this, but he let it go, presumably because he could not crack the story and a problematic last act.* Christopher Nolan, the new Spielberg in regards to Hollywood clout, took it over and he and his brother Jonathan re-shaped the screenplay, and unfortunately, this is where the movie fails, and fails rather spectacularly.

For, despite all the research, all the attempts to work with current space-time theory, all the concessions to be...you know, accurate about the science (for instance, no sound—finally—in space—if only one could say the same for Hans Zimmer's interfering, and even dialogue-drowning score), the film is only sporadically interesting, often is eye-rollingly obvious in telegraphing its resolutions, and has a deus ex machina that is so sloppily sentimental** that you have to suspend a little more than belief; you have to practically believe in magic. Or think the whole thing is a time-transplanted conspiracy theory.

It starts off intriguingly. We see a person (Ellen Burstyn in elderly make-up) talk about the Earth's new "Dust Bowl"—with just enough minutiae to place it in the future and mix it in seamlessly with other interviews taken from Ken Burns' The Dust Bowl. Earth is losing its sustainability and bio-diversity, crops are failing into extinction one by one—first wheat, then okrah, with corn being left,*** but for how long no one can say. Budgets and high-tech industries have mostly failed with agriculture and farming replacing them to try and maintain a starving population. That's the history of Cooper (McConaughey), a former NASA test-pilot and engineer who now maintains a vast farm caretaken by automated combines.  But, as has happened before, the top-soil is taking a toll and the country is periodically overtaken with large dust-storms that blanket everything with dirt.
Meanwhile, at home, Cooper is dealing with domestic issues:  a widower, living with Grampa (John Lithgow), Cooper is caring for his son, who, rather than going into a higher earning field is slated for a career that is more necessary in the current day—farming; his daughter is having difficulty with abandonment issues and has a secret friend—a "ghost" who pushes books off the library-shelves. An odd detail like that telegraphs that it will pop up later in the proceedings. It will, so much so that you begin to wonder if you're watching a remake of Signs.
Never mind how they get there, but Cooper stumbles upon a facility which is the last remaining vestiges of NASA, headed by Professor Brand (Michael Caine—Nolan's most regular cast-member) and a team of theoretical physicists and engineers. Their goal is the most lofty one imaginable—Earth's eco-system is so far out of balance that the only way for the human race to survive is to find another Earth and transport the population to that other world. That's Plan A. Plan B is to repopulate the designated planet with a "population bomb" of new humans to that planet in the hopes that they can re-populate without the need of nannies. Both plans are more than a little far-fetched, as is the means to exploring those planets—a wormhole has opened up in the orbit of Saturn, and exploratory teams, twelve in all, have been dispatched to planets visible in the wormhole to send back blips of information about each planet, and Cooper, along with a minimal team of specialists, including Brand's daughter (Anne Hathaway) rocket away to reach those teams, and discover for themselves the viability of human life on those planets.

Saturn's wormhole—a snow-globe full of worlds.
That mission will take years—for how long no one can speculate—and it is further complicated by the presence of the black hole that has caused that wormhole in space-time. The closer they get to it, the more the crew will be out of time-sync with Earth. They will age slower than the people of their home-planet. This, frankly, is the best concept in the film (and similar to the different time-rates of the various dream-worlds in Nolan's Inception) and produces the best line in the film about their precious commodities of food and water being added to by time. 

But Cooper going on the mission—no matter how important it is to the species—does not sit well with his family, especially daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), who's already lost one parent, and at 10 years old does not want to lose another.  His decision to go anyway, creates a rift between them that time and space only increase, not transcend. But, it will inspire them both on their separate journeys.
Cooper receives messages from home
There are complications—very big complications—that makes one wonder if humans are even worth saving at all. Meanwhile, the uncaring Universe rolls on, completely indifferent to whether you'll be able to make it to your kid's soccer matches...or their weddings...or their funerals. There are wormholes, black holes and more engulfing plot holes. There is an adherence to science theory, but only so far as writers' desperation will allow, and then a lot of fudging goes on in the interest of drama and closure and coincidence...and a banal lack of imagination in its realization of the penultimate act is displayed.  
Ambitious it is, in its limited way, and in places, beautiful. But, for all the dialogue about man (or woman) being an explorer and that, even though humans are born on this planet, they're not destined to die there—ultimately the film falls back to Earth in its focus and its intentions. Opportunities for saying something more, about our place in the Universe and maybe beyond, are lost, for domestic concerns and earthly desires. Interstellar's sights are in the Heavens, but rarely gets off the ground.

* The reason is much less interesting than that.  The property was attached to Paramount, but Spielberg moved his production company Dreamworks from there to Disney.  And, if based on what this article reveals, it's just as well this version wasn't filmed, as the current version is a bit more focused.

** Spoiler Alert: To sum it up, it is "Only Love Can Escape the Sun-Crushing Gravity of a Black Hole."  Really?

*** Rice is never mentioned, which makes one wonder if it's just America that's having these issues and wants to leave the planet.

1 comment:

  1. World´s around, from North to South, from East to West, come on everybody fulling the streets with their song ♫: Hollywood, NO more violence movies against women!